More on the irregular episcopal consecration in Newcastle (updated to 11 May)

Jesmond parish church has issued a press release on the consecration by bishops of REACH-SA to the episcopate. It reads in part:

“The service took place neither in a Church of England ‘place of worship’ nor an unconsecrated place of worship designated under s.43 of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011. It did not take place in Jesmond Parish Church. The ceremony was according to the REACH SA consecration Holy Communion service with only REACH SA bishops taking part. The declaration, however, was to the Church of England’s Canon A5 which says:

‘The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the 39 Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal.’

The oath was of ‘all due reverence and obedience’ not to the Presiding Bishop of REACH SA but to ‘bishops and other chief ministers’ under whom Jonathan [Pryke] is set.”


On 9 May Christian Today reported:

“A CofE spokesman confirmed that no authorization for the consecration ceremony had been given and said any minister claiming to be an Anglican bishop would need permission under law.

‘The Bishop of Newcastle is aware that a minister holding her licence to a parish within the Diocese has taken part in a service of consecration as a bishop under the auspices of an overseas church,’ the spokesman said.

‘It is the clearly established law of the land that no one can exercise ministry in the Church of England without either holding office or having the permission of the diocesan bishop.

‘It is also the case that no overseas bishop may exercise episcopal functions within the Church of England without the express permission of the Archbishop of the province and a commission from the Bishop of the diocese in which they wish to minister.

‘In this case neither has been sought.’

The Archbishop of York…is being kept informed but is yet to make a formal response.”

On 10 MayChristian Today carried the story Blueprint for Church schism revealed as conservative Christian leaders plot separate Anglican structure, in which Harry Farley quotes extensively from a document entitled Credible Bishops, which contains “extensive plans by conservative evangelicals to form a rival Anglican structure to the Church of England in the UK”.

“The proposals, born out of concerns about liberal teachings on homosexuality, include suggestions for a new synod, new liturgy, an appointments system for new bishops, new church canons and new statements of belief”.

On 11 May, George Conger posted a link to the document Credible Bishops on Anglican Ink. Also, Ian Paul posted Should evangelicals be embarrassed by Newcastle? in which he reproduced the comments of Peter Carrell, Director at Theology House and Director of Education in the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, New Zealand. These conclude:

  • Other evangelical Anglicans have taken unilateral action ordaining a bishop without transparently informing proper authorities (the Bishop of Newcastle, the Archbishop of York) of intention to do so. Does not basic courtesy and commitment to living in the light require that?
  • When GAFCON and its English partner, AMiE, had another plan, this action is unilaterally taken against that plan. What is it about fraternity and coherency that these English and other evangelicals do not get?
  • Also, in terms of walking in the light, how could Jonathan Pryke, on the executive of AMiE, not inform his fellow executive members of what was going to happen? Are they not on the same side? Why hide things? In what way does such manner of doing things enhance the reputation of evangelical Anglicans?

Ian adds three points, extracts of which are reproduced below [we would recommend reading the article in full]:

  • I get the impression that those supportive of a GAFCON move to consecrate a bishop in England from within the Anglican Communion look on the events with a mixture of disdain, frustration and probably some anger. Whereas they had a considered plan which operated within the Communion as a whole, this move has jumped the gun without proper consideration or consultation. And I suspect that GAFCON supporters hope that everyone can see the difference between the two initiatives. But they won’t;
  • it is becoming abundantly clear that this sort of approach to dealing with the perceived drift in the doctrine and teaching in the Church is singularly unhelpful … no new line has been crossed: canon law has not been revised; the liturgy has not been changed; nothing formal has changed in the Church’s teaching … Why adopt a strategy of institutional separation rather than continue to engage and lobby from within? If evangelicals believe that they are the ones who are being faithful to the actual, historic teaching of the Church, why simply hand that to others by engaging in this ecclesial jiggery-pokery?

The appointment of Rod Thomas as Bishop of Maidstone looked to many like a significant concession to conservative evangelical views, and these other episcopal moves look very much like evangelicals wanted to have their ecclesial cake and eating it—in another venue of their own choosing.

  • I think the Diocese of Newcastle and its bishop need to think very carefully about what action to take in response. At one level, anything less than a serious move, such as removing Jonathan Pryke’s licence, could be seen as an institutional failure. The problem is that this will then play straight into the hands of those who want to see more splintering. If the Church fails to remove the licences of those who teach contrary to core doctrines of the Church (such as members of the Sea of Faith movement, who don’t believe God is ‘real’) or those who are living in contravention of the teaching of the Church on marriage and sexuality, then it proves to those in Newcastle and their supporters that the Church is more concerned about ecclesial form than doctrinal substance.

We concur with Ian’s conclusion: “To all involved here: handle with care”, which probably underpins the limited comment to date from the Church of England.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "More on the irregular episcopal consecration in Newcastle (updated to 11 May)" in Law & Religion UK, 9 May 2017,

8 thoughts on “More on the irregular episcopal consecration in Newcastle (updated to 11 May)

  1. Has an ecclesiastical offence been committed by the C-of-E cleric being consecrated? Or has he effectively left the C of E by such an act?

  2. It’s definitely an offence for ‘an overseas bishop to perform any episcopal functions in a diocese in the province of Canterbury or York unless he has the commission of the bishop of that diocese and the consent and licence of the archbishop of the province’. But it is unclear to me whether Mr Pryke has already committed an offence.

  3. My comment above was, I now realize, irrelevant, since neither Mr Pryke nor any of the bishops from REACH-SA that consecrated him is an overseas bishop in the meaning of the Measure. David Holloway made this point when interviewed by Ed Stourton on the _Sunday_ programme:

    • Thanks for your comment, which we will incorporate into a post “Bishops sans frontiers” that Frank and I are currently writing. Given the complexity of the legislative measures which may, or may not, be applicable, one can understand the CofE’s reluctance to go into print, other than via the comments of “a spokesperson”. However, the Archbishops’ Council is meeting this week in Lambeth Palace and it would be unusual if a formal statement were not made after its discussions.

  4. “However important the succession of ministry may be, an answer to the question of whether someone has been ordained in a succession of duly ordained bishops is not sufficient to determine the recognizability of orders. Indeed, contrary to what has sometimes been supposed, the orders of someone ordained by a bishop who had been previously a bishop of the Church of England but had separated from her would not, by that fact alone, have a claim to be recognized.’
    ‘Recognition by the Church of England of Orders Conferred in Other Churches’. (Faith and Order Commission)
    This suggests that Mr Pryke may not have been made a bishop at all, in the eyes of the C of E.
    I don’t suppose either of you has a copy of ‘Episcopi Vagantes and those ordained by them’ (BMU/FO/80/13), by any providence?

    • Nor do I. Incidentally, I assume that the C of E recognises Orthodox orders and that the reason why the Orthodox Church isn’t in in the list at the end of ‘Recognition by the Church of England of Orders Conferred in Other Churches’ is because no Orthodox cleric has ever applied to minister in the C of E.

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